The Packer Report: Following the Trends

Who is trending upward and who is trending downward? We have the answers you need to know after Monday's fourth practice of training camp. Heading today's list is a bunch of linebackers.

Packer Report follows the training camp trends in this daily feature.

Trending upward

— As outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene likes to say, an outside linebacker has three duties. Linebacker Brady Poppinga fulfilled all three on Monday. Rushing the passer? He got underneath offensive tackle Breno Giacomini during one-on-one pass-rushing drills. Play the run? He was all over an end-around to Greg Jennings. Play the pass? During the second-stringers' two-minute drill, Poppinga blanketed athletic tight end Evan Moore to prevent a completion.

— Rookie first-round pick Clay Matthews III vaulted over Jeremy Thompson on the depth chart. For one day, at least. Matthews didn't disappoint. During one-on-one pass rushing, he hot the best of fifth-round pick Jamon Meredith by giving him a ferocious shot to the numbers and then speeding past him. Earlier, he made a nice play in coverage on a pass down the seam from Aaron Rodgers. Matthews played a lot of coverage at USC, and it showed on that play.

— Speaking of linebackers, inside linebacker A.J. Hawk had a big day. He was physical in the run game, including beating tight end Jermichael Finley to stuff Ryan Grant during an 11-on-11 period as well as showing his range by stopping Kregg Lumpkin on a toss around left end a few plays later. The Packers need Hawk — the fifth pick on the 2006 draft — to be that kind of player against the run.

— Want more linebackers? Inside linebacker Desmond Bishop has been the defense's most physical player at every practice. Bishop, who forced three fumbles last season compared to a combined one by Nick Barnett and Hawk, drilled DeShawn Wynn to force a fumble. Bishop also crunched Patrick Williams on an end-around. Bishop loves to hit, and the coaches are going to have to figure out how to get him on the field. And Danny Lansanah, sort of an afterthought entering camp, had a big day. He wiped out fullback John Kuhn to allow Bishop to make an easy tackle. Lansanah also had a deflection and snuffed out a screen to Kregg Lumpkin.

— At just 5-foot-8, undrafted rookie running back Tyrell Sutton has his, ahem, shortcomings. But with the ball in his hands, he's an intriguing prospect. Early in practice, he made a nice run on a screen pass. Later, during seven-on-seven work, he beat linebacker Brandon Chillar for a nice completion. He's been as productive as any of the backs with the ball. But can he block and play special teams?

Trending sideways

— Rookie fullback Quinn Johnson seems to be feeling his way through things. The fifth-round pick has lofty expectations as a bruising lead blocker, but that's rarely been evident through four practices. During a three-on-three blocking drill, however, Johnson blasted Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins and had a couple of big collisions with Aaron Rouse. Later, however, Johnson took his eyes off of a swing pass for a drop.

— Undrafted rookie receiver Kole Heckendorf, a native of Mosinee, Wis., had a pair of touchdown receptions and made a great grab on a high pass from Matt Flynn despite tight coverage by cornerback Pat Lee. But he offset that good work with an easy drop.

— After making a couple of nice receptions on Sunday night, Ruvell Martin was stripped by Al Harris.

— How about the backup tight ends in general? Starter Donald Lee had a strong day with a tough, juggling touchdown catch and Jermichael Finley made the play of the day (below). But have veteran Tory Humphrey and undrafted Devin Frischknecht even been on the practice field? Evan Moore and linebacker-tight end combo Spencer Havner both scored touchdowns, but they're also invisible for long stretches. Moore also had a drop.

— Kicker Mason Crosby gets a promotion after his 1-for-4 debacle on Sunday night. He made 6-of-7 on Monday, but his one miss was hooked badly to the left. Maybe the blame goes to holder Matt Flynn. Either way, the field-goal operation needs a lot of improvement. Fortunately, there's plenty of time.

— Don't write off Jeremy Thompson yet in his battle with Clay Matthews III. While Matthews is the more explosive athlete, Thompson beat Chad Clifton and Jamon Meredith in one-on-one pass rushing. Matthews' intensity gives him the edge, though, because he's stronger against the run.

Trending downward

— Rookie left tackle Jamon Meredith needs a lot of work before he's going to be ready to play. In one-on-one pass rushing, he was beaten by Clay Matthews III, Jeremy Thompson and undrafted Cyril Obiozor. Each time, the 6-foot-5 Meredith was knocked off balance and was unable to recover. Thus far, Meredith is the No. 3 left tackle behind starter Chad Clifton and veteran Tony Moll.

— The defense is always ahead of the offense at this time of the year, and that's especially true this year, with a dizzying array of blitzes being thrown at the offense. With that said, none of the quarterbacks have played consistently well. Aaron Rodgers has thrown too many interceptions — Nick Collins got him on Monday by jumping a pass to Ruvell Martin. The glove-wearing Brian Brohm was intercepted too, and Matt Flynn seems so afraid to do something risky that he rarely throws a pass more than 10 yards down the field.

Play of the day

With the defense blitzing during a two-minute drill, inside linebacker A.J. Hawk got matched up with tight end Jermichael Finley. Finley, who is 4 inches taller than Hawk and more athletic, rightfully considered this a mismatch. Hawk stayed with him though and deflected Aaron Rodgers' pass — right into the hands of Finley, who made a shoestring catch. The 33-yard gain moved the ball inside the defense's 10-yard line. A couple plays later, Finley swears he made the catch against Charles Woodson — "touchdown, for sure," he said — though it was ruled in complete. On fourth-and-goal, Rodgers hit Donald Lee for the touchdown.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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